Jacob Butlett

Love Can Only Do So Much


In the summer, he and I
fished for walleye in the rivers
around Rainbow Park.
In the autumn, he and I
built tawny, leafy cathedrals 
for our cousins to explore,
to wreck, to build anew
in the setting sun.
In the winter, he and I 
sipped hot cocoa 
in the bedroom, 
an arcadia of candlelight,
an island of promises,
delicate as church wafers.
In the spring, he and I
strolled down sidewalks 
of crooked cobblestones, 
the skies cloudy,
calling out in cloudbursts,
like a proclamation, 
like an invective,
like a death wish—
distracted driver,
careening Cadillac
on crooked cobblestones.
I survived the strike,
but the man I wanted to marry
did not.


During his wake, I
climbed the nearby cliff
overlooking the sea.
Rainclouds like bloodied palls,
rocky waves like open arms—
a seascape mirror capturing 
the demise of the skies:
a gray cemetery overhead,
a gray cemetery far, far below.
The wind whipped the rosary 
in my hands 
as I turned to the skies, 
demanded God explain
why he had to die, 
why He stole him, 
why I shouldn’t jump.
I waited for God to respond,
but He was silent,
watching me watching him
from the darkened air,
from the wild water.
Should’ve been me,
I thought. 
Should’ve been me.
I stepped
closer to the edge,
the final edge of time,
time to be with the man
God stole from me,
to be with him forever.
I readied myself to leap out
across the world, 
out of life . . .
Then it happened.
A lightning bolt 
crashed into the cliff.
Rocks everywhere, dust everywhere.
I fell back, thinking 
I was dead—gloriously
dead!—but for only 
a moment.

and without thinking twice,
I ran away, through 
squalls of rain, thunderheads 
weeping a lament, thunderheads 
shouting a warning
from God, clamorous 
as my suffering, clamorous
as the rain:
Go, God said. Go
Go where? I wanted
to shout. Go where?
Where can I go now,
now that I’ve lost everything?


I returned to the funeral parlor
where he slumbered in his 
mahogany box, dreaming 
of the seasons, perhaps,
perhaps of himself and me
when we were together,
breathing in the endless turns 
of the world, the endless
possibilities yet to be unburied.
I didn’t know where
to go (still don’t),
but at the parlor, as the storm
outside raged on, I went to him
and kissed him,
hoping my lips could revive him,
but they didn’t, they couldn’t.
Life must move on because
love can only do so much.

A recipient of the Bauerly-Roseliep Scholarship for literary excellence and a former literary journal editor, Jacob Butlett hails from the Midwest and holds an A.A. degree and a B.A. degree in Creative Writing. His work has been published or is forthcoming in many journals and magazines, including The PhoenixFterota LogiaGone LawnThe MacGuffin, Lunch TicketInto the Void, and plain china.